Confessions of a Dream Crusher

We call ourselves the dream makers, the curiosity protectors, the people who will change education from within.  We see ourselves as open-minded, always willing to change, and always looking to do what is best for students.  We come to school on those first few days with dreams spilling out of our arms.  New ideas floating around our heads as we dream of the possibilities.  As we eagerly embark on a new journey.

Yet a few weeks in and our arms seem to be empty.  The dreams gone,  reality set in, and  we think, “Well, maybe next year will be the year we change education, maybe next year these dreams will work.”

We can blame politicians for crushing our dreams.  Sometimes we can even blame administration.  But more often than not the blame lies within our own communities, our own teams, and ourselves.   After all, how quick are we to dismiss the dreams of others before we even hear them out?  How often do we think that we know better than someone else?  How often do we make it a point to share just why something will not work.  Yet, we get upset when someone dares to tell us that our dream is impossible, that our idea will never work, but forget that we say those some words to others.

We are so quick to tsk tsk other people’s new ideas.  We are so quick to jump in with our own opinions, to share our own better ideas.  To not truly listen because in our minds we have already decided that that idea will never work.  We are so quick to burst the fragile bubbles of hope that we all bring back at the beginning of a new year.  As if bringing someone down to Earth is a good thing.

And we can blame society.  We can blame standardized testing.  We can blame the Common Core.  Or we can take responsibility for how we speak to others.  For how we judge.  For how quickly we dismiss.  We can stop crushing the dreams of others.

Schools starts in 10 days.  I will not be a dream crusher anymore.  I will not be the one that says that something cannot work.  I will not be the one that discourages others.  Instead, I will be the one that says, “How can I help?”  What will you be?

If you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.  The 2nd edition and actual book-book (not just e-book!) comes out September 22nd from Routledge.

4 thoughts on “Confessions of a Dream Crusher

  1. Strong post. In my work with teens who are creating their own better futures (it’s a virtual after-school club) there’s another angle we discuss: protect your dream while it’s still new. It’s like a fresh and fragile seedling when it first comes up and, if it’s your dream, it’s yours to protect. We protect our dreams by being selective over who we share them with and when.

    Some people are natural believers who’s words will grow and strengthen our seedling. We seek them out at the early stages. Other people, because they love us and want the best for us, will point out all the things that are wrong with our seedling (meaning well) but seedlings are too fragile and this crushes them. Others simply struggle to see how the seedling might grow. Their lack of enthusiasm causes it to shrink back, because it’s not strong enough yet to hold under pressure. Finally, we have people who are so enthusiastic they want to move the seedling here and here to see what happens and this tears it apart.

    Different people are important at different stages of a dreams journey from seedling to oak to forest. It’s good to be aware of how our words can crush others, to become more careful. It’s powerful to live knowing how to take control of the attention your seedling gets from others, because then those words of others only have power to do good or do nothing.

  2. Dream crusher… Certainly not the title I would ever strive to attain, but I am sure that I have earned it far more than I would even like to consider. “How can I help?” “What do you need from me?” Both phrases have the power to lead to the fulfillment of dreams- the dreams of my own children, the students in our school, the teachers I work beside, even my own husband. I will strive to use those phrases rather than the oh-so-helpful “yeah but” As Leah K Stewart notes in her comments, teaching others to protect their dreams while they are in the seedling stage is also important. Keeping them safe from the intentional crushing weight of the naysayer, the casual negligence of the unintentional doubt, even the well intentioned spouse or parent… I will also work to help others protect their fledgling dreams-thank you, Leah K, for making that point as well.

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